Foodie Gifts for Heart Patients

by Nicole Van Hoey, PharmD Health Professional

Re-learning to eat and live after a heart attack, surgery, or related diagnosis can bring a cloud over many parts of life. Enjoying meals can become an even bigger challenge during the holidays or family celebrations, when it seems like everyone relaxes with food. Bring joy back to these meals for friends or family struggling with heart disease this holiday season or anytime: Surprise them with a subscription box of fresh ingredients, new kitchen tools, or a basket of much-loved treats.

Healthy food delivered.

Food delivery services: how they help

After a heart diagnosis, choosing foods that are low fat and low salt but still high in flavor can make shopping, cooking, and eating frustrating, not relaxing. Especially if the heart patient is not used to working in the kitchen, cooking from scratch can be confusing and stressful, too. After my own heart surgery, I had a hard time finding the time and energy to shop and make meals; having healthy food delivered with Instacart saved my strength for enjoyable kitchen time instead of shopping.

Meal delivery

Food delivery services: multiple options

To shake up the way a heart patient looks at ingredients, send them a meal-planning kit: monthly or weekly options, like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, abound; some (like PeachDish) even meet vegan and other dietary needs. If your budget only allows for a smaller gift, jumpstart their interest in cooking with new ingredients by sending a 1-time meal-planning farm box, such as the FarmtoPeople tasting box.

Blender on counter.

Kitchen appliances: blenders for all budgets

Small appliances are hot items even in large kitchens. Blenders offer people the option to customize their own smoothies, make healthier versions of treats like milkshakes, and even grind seeds or dried fruits for extra protein and fiber in recipes. If popular blenders like Vitamix are out of your budget, consider a smaller but still powerful item. Often, 500 volts is enough to crush ice. Consumer Reports has scored blenders from $50 to $400 by noise, crushing ability, and more.

Digital scale weighing almonds.

Kitchen appliances: how digital scales help

Like other parts of our lives, kitchens are becoming more digital in the 21st century. A kitchen scale used to be reserved for professional kitchens, but they are now becoming commonplace in the home too. After my heart surgery, I started using a small digital scale and the HappyForks online recipe analyzer to more accurately calculate nutritional information. Being able to add ingredients directly to the bowl and re-zero (tare) the scale meant less clean-up effort, too.

Digital scale weighing walnuts.

Kitchen appliances: which digital scales to try

Like other kitchen gadgets, the price range for scales varies broadly. Options from Oxo alone include different sizes by ingredient weights in pounds, and features like pull-out displays. But, even a smaller option (like my Escali) can help cooks in small spaces, with just one bowl, know exactly how much salt, fat, or sugar is in a product. And getting a scale in a fun color, or getting a tare bowl with a unique pattern, made such precision baking a bit more fun.

Festive cookie jar full of cookies.

Treats to bring smiles

Just because a person has heart disease does not mean foods have to be bland, boring, or 100 percent healthy. Treats and favorite flavors in moderation are part of a well-balanced diet that avoids deprivation and rebound eating. A festive cookie jar can be personalized and can remind your recipient that fun treats are not out of reach. Stocking the jar with homemade healthy-fat cookies can make the gift even more special. Similarly, a heart-shaped or colorful measuring set can make a baker with heart disease smile while staying true to healthy quantities in cakes and cookies.

Spices no salt.

Flavor without danger: help break the salt habit

Likewise, salt is not 100% unhealthy. Although a moderate amount of sodium is needed in the body to help balance cell health and fluid levels all over the body, extra salt in the diet is a big cause of increased blood pressure. Salt-free spices like those by Penzy’s introduce new flavors without added sodium. When my blood pressure increased before heart surgery, my family added a new seasoning—Arizona Dreaming—on the dinner table and even to air-popped popcorn.

Coarse sea salt spelling out salt.

Flavor without danger: giving salt as a gift

To help your gift recipient learn to cook with less sodium, make the use of salt more purposeful: a special salt like pink sea salt, or a grinder for coarse salt, helps patients use pinches visible during the cooking stages or to top the finished dish in the kitchen, not at the table. Coarse finishing salts also have a lot of texture and immediate flavor on the tongue, so they make a bigger impact with smaller amounts. Remember that 1 teaspoon of salt daily is more than enough for adults.

Following along with online cooking class.

Cookbooks and recipe clubs

After a cardiac event, returning to an old routine like baking or cooking can be emotionally and physically draining. Help refresh interest in food again with a new cookbook, or a membership to an online cooking class or club. A free but still thoughtful way to encourage your loved one to revisit the kitchen is to support them as they collect or develop new recipes, too, which can be shared through social media foodie groups like Recipefy or AllRecipes with friends, family, or wider circles.

Zipper heart.

Heart-specific love

If your recipient is a survivor of open heart surgery, he or she has a lot of emotions about food, surviving, new priorities, and more. Remind him or her how special it is to be a member of the zipper club with a kitchen gift like the Zipper Club apron at CafePress. Custom options on Etsy or Zazzle offer similar products at a range of prices, too. One more easy kitchen gifts to offer a heart patient this year? Time spent together making and sharing treats or special meals.

Nicole Van Hoey, PharmD
Meet Our Writer
Nicole Van Hoey, PharmD

Nicole Van Hoey is a freelance writer and editor for consumer and professional health publications. She underwent open heart surgery in August 2016 and writes about the experience, including cardiac rehab, for HealthCentral. She can be found on Twitter @VHMedComm and writing about family life after heart surgery at